Ryan Lavery may have found his chosen career in the hospitality trade almost by accident but the 22-year-old Belfast bartender couldn’t be happier…
These days, Ryan Lavery looks after The Loft cocktail bar at The Hudson on Gresham Street in Belfast, but his hospitality career got underway four years ago when he joined the staff behind the bar at the former Beach Club at the Odyssey Pavilion.
“I just thought of it as a job,” he told LCN this month. “It wasn’t something I’d previously thought much about. Being 18 and working in a nightclub was a big thing. I spent five months in the job and worked myself up to supervisor. I realised then that this was something I was good at and I wanted to keep doing it.”
When the venue eventually closed its doors, Ryan migrated to The Hudson and spent about 18 months there before leaving for a supervisor’s post at 39 Gordon Street in Belfast.
“In the event, 39 Gordon Street wasn’t for me and I came back to The Hudson last year,” reports Ryan. “I was here for about six months, then I was moved upstairs to The Loft cocktail bar.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to give the bar a bit of a Belfast theme, each cocktail is named after something from old time Belfast, street names and so on, and we try to give each one a story, which goes down very well with the customers.”
Ryan has also been looking into the background of The Hudson and the historic Smithfield area in which its located – and that’s added an air of authenticity to the stories that he’s been building around the bar’s popular new cocktail menu.
About three months ago, Ryan was promoted to bar manager:
“What we’re trying to do now is turn the venue around from somewhere that would normally have a DJ and that kind of thing to a place with a good live music vibe,” he adds. “We’re attracting young, up-and-coming artists into the bar and we’re holding things like ‘open mic’ nights.
“As well as cocktails, we’re also well-known for our whiskey and our craft beers. We have 19 beers on draught at the minute and a great selection of bottled beers.”
Ryan believes that Belfast bar scene is currently thriving and people are after premium cocktails and a variety of good beers for which they are willing to pay a bit extra:
“I do go out a fair bit myself and the standards in Belfast are definitely improving,” he adds. “More people are going out to bars, they are looking for cocktails and they seem willing to pay a premium for them.
“From what I can see, trends seem to go through stages. About three years ago, we started into the craft beer phase, but I think that’s kind of fizzled out now and we are in the gin phase, everyone wants premium gin, perfect serves and all that.”
Ryan’s own favourite is an Amaretto Sour, which fuses Amaretto with lemon juice and egg whites and he enjoys a tequila. He hopes to see pub-goers getting to a point where they begin to see good tequila as something to be sipped and enjoyed rather than slammed down as a shot.
And as for the future, like many young bartenders, Ryan has his eye on advancing through the ranks in the trade::
“I’d like to work my way to the top in a bar or on my own place,” he admits. “Of course, I’d also like to be the one that creates that new thing that no-one has seen yet…”
The Colonial Jam Jar
This is an Irish twist on a Louisiana jam jar.
Southern comfort 35ml
Fresh Lemon juice
Pressed apple juice
Put all the ingredients in a jam jar, add crushed ice and close the lid. Shake and the open the jar, top with ice and garnish. The lid of the jar can be used as a coaster